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Charleston Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Saturday, November 25, 2017

How Do I Avoid Probate In South Carolina?

By all accounts, probate proceedings are difficult affairs. The proceeding, which divides up a deceased person’s assets to its inheritors, is usually an expensive and lengthy process. There are, however, several ways to avoid a probate proceeding.

Craft a Living Trust

A living trust is the easiest way to avoid probate. While virtually any asset in South Carolina can be put into a living trust, the legal mechanics can be tricky. The person seeking to avoid probate must create a trust document and specifically name a “trustee” who will assume responsibility of the property after his or her death. Then, he or she must transfer ownership of the property to the newly created trust. The property is now owned by the trust and will be automatically transferred to the named-trustee upon death.

In South Carolina, almost any property can be put into a trust account. Because the mechanics of trusts and trust administration can be cumbersome, it is best to speak to a South Carolina Trust Administration lawyer to ensure that all legal procedures are properly followed and there are no unpleasant surprises later. 

Consider Joint ownership

This option is especially popular for couples. Most commonly used in real estate, an ownership that is legally described as a “joint tenancy with the rights of survivorship” automatically passes to surviving spouse or partner. Therefore, forgoing to the exhausting probate process. In South Carolina, joint tenancy works not just for real property, such as houses or land. The Palmetto state allows other types of valuable property such as vehicles or bank accounts to be jointly owned. Importantly, though, like other areas of real estate law or trust and wills law, there are specifics that must be followed for a person to take advantage of this type of ownership. To hold real estate in joint tenancy, the exact words “as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, and not as tenants in common,” must be used.

Other types of ownership that also bypass probate include tenancy by the entireties and community property.

Activate Applicable Payable-on-Death Directives

The “payable-on-death” option can also apply to many assets in South Carolina. The most popular option is a payable-on-death bank account. This allows a person, while still alive, to have complete control over his or her money. Importantly, during his or her life no one else can spend the money, or otherwise have any right to it. When the person passes then the beneficiary will then gain full access to the account. Like a living trust or joint ownership of property, no probate proceeding is required. 

If I Want To Avoid Probate, What Should I Do Next?

If you are looking to avoid a probate proceeding, then you obviously have many options. To determine the best option for you, it is a good idea to request a consultation with one of our South Carolina trust administration lawyers to assess the specific facts of your case and ensure the best outcome for you and your loved ones.


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Wiles Law Firm, LLC helps clients with their estate planning needs in Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding areas such as West Ashley, Summerville, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and John's Island.

Information on this website is not legal advice. Further, viewing of the enclosed information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Wiles Law Firm, LLC. Matters will be handled by attorneys who primarily practice out of our office in Charleston County located at 852 Lowcountry Blvd., Ste. 101, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464. M. Emerson Wiles, III is the attorney responsible for this advertisement.

Any result Wiles Law Firm, LLC may achieve on behalf of one client in one particular matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients. Please contact a South Carolina estate planning attorney or one of our attorneys with Wiles Law Firm, LLC for a consultation regarding your unique estate plan.



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